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A Small Business’ Guide to Basic SEO

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A Basic Guide to Small Business SEO

Now that you have a beautiful site and business listings, it’s time to make them easier to find on the internet. We’ll use some basic principles of SEO to do this. So what is SEO?

What is SEO?

SEO or search engine optimization is the process of making your website more visible on the internet without paying. Think back to the last time you searched something on Google. You probably clicked on one of the first links to show up, right? Did you go to the bottom and click to the 53rd page of results? No. Customers aren’t going to either. Google uses special computer algorithms to determine where your website should show up in the SERP or Search Engine Results Page. No one can pay to get a better ranking in the SERP. There are however ways to optimize your website to perform better for certain search terms.

Getting Started

Now that you know what SEO is, let’s get started on some basics. This is meant to be a brief introduction for beginners. There is a lot you can learn about SEO–some companies have entire teams devoted to SEO for single websites–but this is meant to get you started with a good foundation. If you are interested in learning more, Moz’s Beginner’s Guide to SEO is the best place to start.

We’ll hit a few basic steps that will get you started.

1. Keyword Research

One of the first steps in SEO is knowing what search terms are important and relevant to your business. Let’s say you have a cupcake catering business called Frost, what would people search to find your business? Cupcake caterers near me. Wedding catering. Frost cupcakes. And dozens of other things. How to you determine what to focus on? How do you even know what those search terms are? Keyword Research.

There are tools that will tell you the number of people who search for something per month (Search volume), how hard it is to rank for (Keyword Difficulty), and a variety of other metrics. Use this data to determine what keywords are important for you. Search volume isn’t everything though, keep in mind the intent that a searcher has. For example, someone searching where to order cupcakes for wedding near me is more likely to buy than someone searching cupcakes. Longtail keywords (keywords with lower search volume) like where to order cupcakes for wedding near me are almost always easier to rank for when compared to higher search volume terms. Make a list of keywords you would like to rank for. Start by thinking of what people might search for then use tools to get more suggestions and research them.

There are lots of keyword research tools, some free and others paid. Paid ones often have free trials to let you test them out

Free

  • Keywords Everywhere
  • Google Keyword Planner
  • Wordstream’s Keyword Tool
  • Ubersuggest

Paid

  • SEMrush
  • Moz’s Keyword Explorer

Disclaimer: Optimizing your website based on keyword research is a very sound principle, but don’t fall into the habit of “keyword stuffing” where you overuse keywords. In the early days of SEO, some people would use “blackhat SEO tactics” like putting hundreds of white keywords on a page with a white background, so only “spiders” could read them. Google figured this out and penalizes people that try sneaky things like that nowadays. You’ve got to remember at the end of the day, customers are going to be reading these pages, so make it sound natural.

2. Make your site crawlable

One of the first steps in SEO is knowing what search terms are important and relevant to your business. Let’s say you have a cupcake catering business called Frost, what would people search to find your business? Cupcake caterers near me. Wedding catering. Frost cupcakes. And dozens of other things. How to you determine what to focus on? How do you even know what those search terms are? Keyword Research.

There are tools that will tell you the number of people who search for something per month (Search volume), how hard it is to rank for (Keyword Difficulty), and a variety of other metrics. Use this data to determine what keywords are important for you. Search volume isn’t everything though, keep in mind the intent that a searcher has. For example, someone searching where to order cupcakes for wedding near me is more likely to buy than someone searching cupcakes. Longtail keywords (keywords with lower search volume) like where to order cupcakes for wedding near me are almost always easier to rank for when compared to higher search volume terms. Make a list of keywords you would like to rank for. Start by thinking of what people might search for then use tools to get more suggestions and research them.

There are lots of keyword research tools, some free and others paid. Paid ones often have free trials to let you test them out

Technical SEO

Sitemaps & Indexing
  • Sitemaps are, as aptly named, a map of your website. It helps spiders navigate your website and see all your pages. You can submit this map to Google, Bing, etc. so the search engine knows your website exists and what pages are on it. This becomes more important with larger websites, but starting now can only help.

  • The easiest way to do this is to download a WordPress Plugin that will create the map automatically. I like Yoast SEO, because it has other useful tools as well.

  • Follow Yoast’s instruction to get to your sitemap.

  • Use Google Search Console’s tool to submit the map. (For instructions on how to set up Search Console click here)

Navigable
  • You want to make sure your website is easy to navigate. This helps spiders crawling your site, but also visitors of your site. For example, your homepage is website.com and you have a separate page for your products (website.com/products) you want it to be easy to get to. Internal linking (a link that goes from one page to another on the same website) is your friend here. Make sure there is a link or button they can click on to get to the product page. This may seem intuitive, but it can be easy to forget, especially if you add new pages later down the road.

On-site SEO

Title Tags & Meta-Description
  • This is the preview that shows up in the SERP. If you already downloaded Yoast SEO, there will be an option to edit these at the bottom when you are editing a page in WordPress. Make sure it is descriptive of the page because people often scan these before clicking your link. You are limited to 60 characters with Title Tags and 160 for the meta description.
title tag meta description
H1s & Alt-text
  • This is how Google’s spiders “read” your website. H1 is the HTML code designation for the biggest heading. In WordPress just highlight the text and select Heading 1 as the font style. This shows Google what is the most important thing on the page. For example on your page about ordering custom wedding cupcakes make Custom Wedding Cupcakes the H1. That way it is obvious what the page is about to the spiders. These headers will be influenced by the keyword research you have already done.

  • Alt tags or alt text is the text description of an image. As smart as search engines are, their spiders read lines of code on your website and can’t see the pictures. Adding alt tags for images helps the spiders get a better sense of what is on your page. When you upload media in WordPress, there is a box to input the alt text.

3. Set Up Google Analytics & Search Console

As you become more familiar with SEO, data will become your best friend and you’ll want more and more of it. Get started on the right foot, by setting up Google Analytics and Google Search Console right off the bat.

Google Analytics instructions

Google Search Console instructions

4. Off-site

One way search engines determine how authoritative your site is on a given search term is based on the number of links you have to your site/page. Think of these links as recommendations. If you are picking a restaurant to go to you would likely give more value to the recommendations of someone you trust more than a stranger. You would also give more weight to a restaurant if 10 different people suggested it versus one person saying they like it 10 times. The same is true of links. You want diversity and high authority links as much as possible. Let’s talk about how you get these links.

Build Links
  • One way is to actively seek out links from other sites to yours. You probably have already done this if you created a business listing on Yelp. Look for other business directories or places where you can list your business and include a link to your site. There are other ways to build links, such as some websites might let you include a bio if you are a guest writer. Be careful though because there are some link building practices that are against Google’s Terms and Conditions and you can get your website penalized or even removed entirely. Check out this video for more info.

Build Good Content
  • The best way to get people to link to your site is to have great content on your website. Notice throughout this section how many times we sent you to another resource to get more info there. If you have great content people will share and link to it.

Key Terms

SEO: Search Engine Optimization – Making changes that improve your website’s visibility online

SERP: Search Engine Results Page – The page of links to websites that shows up when you search something in a search engine such as Google.

Rankings: The position in which your website shows up in the SERP

Search Term: The specific words you type into the search bar of a web browser